Pearl Bailey

Singer, Actor, Dancer
This Broadway musical star was noted for her trademark song delivery in which she interrupted a number to make comic asides to the audience. Bailey began her career performing in amateur shows and as a band singer in ... Read more »
Born: 03/28/1918 in Newport News, Virginia, USA

Filmography

Actor (33)

As the World Turns 1955 - 2010 (TV Show)

Actor

Carol Channing and Pearl Bailey on Broadway 2003 - 2004 (TV Show)

Actor

A Capitol Fourth 1989 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)

Actor

Life's Most Embarrassing Moments 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)

Actor

Miss Ruby's Southern Holiday Dinner 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)

Actor

A Salute to Broadway: The Shows 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)

Actor

Silver Spoons 1982 - 1987 (TV Show)

Actor

The 50th Presidential Inaugural Gala 1984 - 1985 (TV Show)

Actor

The Member of the Wedding 1982 - 1983 (TV Show)

Actor

The Fox and the Hound 1981 (Movie)

of Big Mama (Voice)

Bob Hope Special: Happy Birthday, Bob! 1977 - 1978 (TV Show)

Actor

Bing!... A 50th Anniversary Gala 1976 - 1977 (TV Show)

Actor

Bing Crosby and His Friends 1974 - 1975 (TV Show)

Actor

Norman... Is That You? 1975 (Movie)

Beatrice Chambers (Actor)

One More Time 1973 - 1974 (TV Show)

Actor

Bing Crosby and His Friends 1971 - 1972 (TV Show)

Actor

Stand Up and Cheer 1970 - 1971 (TV Show)

Actor

The Pearl Bailey Show 1970 - 1971 (TV Show)

Actor

The Landlord 1970 (Movie)

Marge (Actor)

All the Fine Young Cannibals 1960 (Movie)

Ruby Jones (Actor)

Porgy and Bess 1958 (Movie)

Maria (Actor)

St. Louis Blues 1958 (Movie)

Aunt Hagar (Actor)

That Certain Feeling 1956 (Movie)

Gussie (Actor)

Carmen Jones 1954 (Movie)

Frankie (Actor)

Variety Girl 1947 (Movie)

(Actor)

Mike and Pearl (TV Show)

Actor

Peter Gunn (TV Show)

Actor

The Last Generation (TV Show)

Actor

The Love Boat (TV Show)

Actor

The Member of the Wedding (Movie)

(Actor)
Music (1)

Porgy and Bess 1958 (Movie)

(Song Performer)

Biography

This Broadway musical star was noted for her trademark song delivery in which she interrupted a number to make comic asides to the audience. Bailey began her career performing in amateur shows and as a band singer in vaudeville and cabarets where she was known at first as the younger sister of dancer Bill Bailey. By the mid-1940s, she had evolved her own unique style of delivery--a slyly sultry and husky drawl--and her superb comic timing which she displayed in her hit recording "Tired" and her show-stopping performance in the 1946 Broadway musical "St. Louis Woman".

The following year, Bailey made her film debut in "Variety Girl" (1947), and while her magnetic personality made itself felt in featured "best friend" roles in the lush film musicals "Carmen Jones" (1955) and "Porgy and Bess" (1959) and as an earthy, savvy presence in the melodramas "St Louis Blues" (1958) and "All the Fine Young Cannibals" (1960), it was on the musical and cabaret stage that she was a star. Bailey triumphed on Broadway as a practical-minded madam in the Truman Capote/Harold Arlen collaboration "House of Flowers" (1955) and as the perennial matchmaker Dolly Levi in the all-black production of "Hello, Dolly!" (1967). By the 1970s, Bailey was a familiar presence, chatting on talk shows, posing with innumerable presidents and hosting her own TV series in 1971.

Relationships

Virginia Bailey

Sister

John Randolph Pinkett Jr

Husband
married on August 31, 1948 divorced in March 1952

Ella Mae Bailey

Mother

Dee Dee Jean Bellson

Daughter
born c. 1960 adopted with Louis Bellson

Henry Bailey

Brother

Eura Bailey

Sister

Joseph Bailey

Father
of her father, Bailey said: "From him I got the wisdom, the philosophizing, the soul"

Bill Bailey

Brother

Louis Bellson

Husband
married in London on November 19, 1952 fourth husband born c. 1924

Tony Bellson

Son
born c. 1954 adopted with Louis Bellson

EDUCATION

William Penn High School

Philadelphia , Pennsylvania

Georgetown University

Washington D.C. 1978 - 1985
had received honorary degree before she enrolled; graduated with Dean's Award

Milestones

1970

Hosted own TV show, "The Pearl Bailey Show"

1968

Appeared on a TV special with Carol Channing

1967

Starred on Broadway in the all-black production of "Hello, Dolly!"

1948

Appeared on the first telecast of Milton Berle's "Texaco Star Theater" (June)

1947

Film acting debut in "Variety Girl"

1946

Broadway debut in the musical comedy "St. Louis Woman"

1942

Toured with Cootie Williams's band

1940

First New York engagment (the Village Vanguard)

1933

Began career as touring singer/dancer; debut on the vaudeville stage at the Pearl Theatre in Philadelphia

Went to live with mother in Washington, DC after parents' divorce

Entered amateur shows at age 15

Bonus Trivia

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"Pearl Bailey, the first black beauty to make waves [in the postwar era], was hardly anyone's idea of a woman who might use sex to stalk a man down or to lash out at society. Instead Pearlie Mae personified the lively down-home diva, the ordinary, chatty, wisecracking neighborly lady who was telling a generation scared of its own shadow to just cool it honey, sit back, relax, and have some fun. She became a star by often laughing at and joking about the birds and bees, romance and men ...

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Another comic selling point was her fatigue ... Sometimes Bailey's act was criticized as being a throwback to prewar stereotypes. Actually, the humor was both old and new ... Bailey, however, was always a soothing figure. She used humor to communicate her view of the world as a joyous, harmonious place that had no great problems or tensions. (This point of view, so much admired in the fifties, often distressed younger black audiences of later periods.) --Donald Bogle ("Brown Sugar", Da Capo Press, 1980)

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She was named Cue Magazine's Entertainer of the Year (1967).

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Received the March of Dimes Award in 1968.

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She was appointed "Ambassador of Love to the Entire World" in 1971.

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Named special advisor to the US Mission to the United Nations by former President Gerald Ford in 1975.

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She received the USO's Woman of the Year Award twice.

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Awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1988.

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